Traditional Games



An Introduction to Traditional Games

Languid summer afternoons giving way to pleasant evenings, lulled by a cool breeze. As the children run off to engage on sport and play, the older family members gather together to swap stories and devise a way to spend the rest of the day. And a game is born. In traditional Indian society , board and card games have for long been a predominant form of entertainment. In fact, India has been the birthplace of several games that are popular to this day.

Some Famous Traditional Games


It is commonly believed that chess originated in India in the 6 th century. The Arabic, Persian, Greek, Portuguese and Spanish words for chess are all derived from the Sanskrit game Chaturanga. Moreover, the three animals, horse, camel and elephant, that are the knight, bishop and rook in chess, were only present in the Indian cavalry. Eventually, chess spread throughout the world.

The traditional game of chess is played on a square 8 x 8 board with 64 squares of alternating light and dark color.

Each player plays with 8 pawns, 2 knights, 2 bishops, 2 rooks, 1 queen and 1 king. The object of the game is to play such that the opponent's king is in a position where no move can prevent his capture.

Chess requires excellent foresight, strategy planning skills, patience, analytical skills and attentiveness. It has often been described as an abstract war game.


The traditional board game is believed to have originated in India in the 4 th century. Its name is derived from the Hindi word for twenty-five, pachis . This is the largest score that can be thrownThe board is shaped like a symmetrical cross on embroidered cloth. Moves depend on the score thrown by 6 or 7 cowries (shells).

Pachisi is played by four players divided into two teams. The objective is to get your pieces to the finish first. Four colored pieces are used: yellow and black, red and green.

The westernized version of the game was published in 1896. This is the popular Ludo.


This traditional game is the ancestor of Pachisi. It is a game for 2-4 players, and is played on a board with a 7 x 7 grid. The object is to move your pieces in spirals, and be the first to reach the centre. Four cowries (shells) serve as dice.


This game of 14 cups and seeds is played by Tamil women of South India and Sri Lanka. It consists of a board of 14 cups, with each player controlling 7.

Each cup contains 6 seeds to start with. The first player picks up the seeds from any of his cups and begins to drop them into cups, one at a time, moving counter clockwise. When he drops the last seed, he picks up seeds from the following cup and continues dropping them till he drops a seed into a cup with an empty cup following it. He then collects the seeds of the cups beyond the empty one and puts them in his store. Play is resumed with seeds from the following cup. When the player drops his last seed into a cup that is followed by 2 empty cups, his turn is over.

The second player plays similarly, till no seeds remain. Then, the players fill up their cups with their store of seeds. The winner is the person with surplus seeds. The loser who could not complete his cups has to forfeit them. Game continues excluding those cups. If at any point, a player can fill his cup once again, it is included. Game is over when at the end of a round, a player cannot do so.


Ganjifa is a traditional Indian card game that is played with a set consisting of 20 circular handmade cards in 5 colors or values. These values are Ace, King, Queen, Knave and dancing girl.

The traditional game of Ganjifa originated in Persia. Mughal emperors popularized it in India in the 16 th century. In court, the cards were made of ivory inlaid with precious stones, or tortoise shells. Later, cheaper sets of wood and palm leaf were made for the general public.

Four players are dealt 5 cards each. The players play by either raising the stake or choosing not to take any action. When no one raises any more, the cards are turned up. The winner is the person holding the best hand.

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